Saturday, April 05, 2008

Canadian Cover Content #6: Juno Weekend

This weekend is Juno weekend and I don't mean last year's much-beloved indie film, even though that does has more than its fair share of Canadian content-- director Jason Reitman, Ellen Page, Michael Cera... even Jason Bateman has a Canuck connection: he's Paul Anka's son-in-law! Anyway, the Junos are the annual music awards given out by the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Think Canadian Grammies. Ironically, Juno (the film), despite being filmed in Vancouver with its Canadian stars and director, was ineligible for this year's Genies (think Canadian Oscars) because it wasn't made with Canadian money...

No, not Juneau, though coincidentally the Junos are named after Pierre Juneau, one-time head of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) and architect of our Canadian content regulations. This year's Junos are being held tomorrow night in Calgary, Alberta with host Russell Peters.

There's a bit of controversy this year's awards. At first, Anne Murray's album Duets: Friends and Legends (which has some covers on it, FYI) was left off the list of best album nominees due to an error in the way sales figures were calculated. They've since added her to the nomination, but now there are 6 nominees, leaving everyone wondering who's the weak link of the category... The other nominees are Avril Lavigne, Celine Dion (with two nominations), Michael Bublé, and Feist. A lot of nominees for the major categories are based purely on sales and there's even a Doritos (ugh) Fan Choice award. I have no idea what's the deal with the "International Album of the Year" category with this year's nominees Bon Jovi, Fergie, Josh Groban, Rihanna, and Timbaland. Clearly a celebration of Canadian music. Juno nominations have always been a little suspect: in 2004, Fong Songs fave Danny Michel was once nominated for Best New Artist after his 5TH album since 1997, eventually losing to Juno juggernaut Michael Bublé.

Record sales and stuff aside, at the very least the Junos remind us how awesome Canadian music can be. To celebrate here's a tasty sampling of covers by and of some of the nominated artists.

Danny Michel - After the Gold Rush [originally by Neil Young]
One Juno nominee honours another. Neil Young's Chrome Dreams II is nominated for Best Adult Alternative Album (whatever that means) and Danny's live DVD is nominated for Music DVD of the year. His newest album Feather, Fun & Fin just came out a couple weeks ago and he's currently on a cross-country tour with a stop in Calgary for the Junos. His live shows are not to be missed and I'll probably be seeing back-to-back shows here in Vancouver at the end of the month.

Serena Ryder - Some of These Days [originally by Shelton Brooks]
Serena Ryder - It Doesn't Matter Anymore [originally by Buddy Holly; written by Paul Anka]
Serena Ryder is nominated for Best New Artist of the Year and my vote's for her, though admittedly I'm pretty unfamiliar with the other artists (Belly, Jeremy Fisher, Justin Nozuka, Suzie McNeil, and Jill Barber). I'm still not sure what the criteria for this category is since her debut album is from 2005 while her collection of Canadian cover songs If Your Memory Serves You Well came out in 2006. Her soulful renditions of Some of These Days and It Doesn't Matter Anymore just floor me. I was also blown away when I found out that deep rich bluesy voice was attached to someone in her mid-20's... in fact, younger than me by a few months. Très bizarre.

Suzie McNeil - Remedy [originally by The Black Crowes]
Another of the New Artist nominees is Suzie McNeil, a former contestant on the reality show Rock Star INXS who came in 4th overall. In fact, of the 15 contestants vying to be lead singer for the Aussie rock band, three were Canadian including the eventual winner JD Fortune. From the show's official soundtrack, she does an okay job covering the Black Crowes.

James Keelaghan & Oscar Lopez - Follow Me Up There, Carlos [originally Follow Me Up to Carlow by P. J. McCall; traditional]
James Keelaghan & Oscar Lopez first teamed up in 1997 for the album Compadres, combining Latino and Celtic influences into what they dub "Celtino". I first heard them at the 2000 Edmonton Folk festival and became hooked on that album, which features this traditional Irish tune. I didn't even realize it was a cover until I heard a Celtic punk cover last year. Their long overdue follow-up Buddy, Where You Been? is nominated for a Juno in the category of Roots & Traditional Album of the Year (Group).

Feist - Inside and Out [originally Love You Inside Out by The Bee Gees]
Feist - We Can Work It Out (with Arthur H) [originally by The Beatles]
Jack Penate - 1234 [originally by Feist]
Feist, who's already won a few Junos in past years, could walk away with a few more this year with 5 nominations including Album, Artist, Pop Album, Single (1234), and Songwriter of the Year. Her Beatles cover with French singer Arthur H is from the French TV show Taratata, which I'm starting to realize is a great source for live cover songs. In 2006, Feist was even nominated for a cover song! Her Bee Gees cover was up for Single of the Year, eventually losing to Juno juggernaut Michael Bublé.

The Corb Lund Band - Sixteen Tons [originally by Merle Travis]
Corb Lund's Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier! is nominated for Roots & Traditional Album of the Year (Solo). The first time I heard of Corb Lund he was playing a show in the basement theatre of the downtown library I was working at. Earlier this week, he and his band The Hurtin' Albertans played to a hometown crowd of 6000 fans at Rexall Place, home to our Edmonton Oilers (who are now packed up for the golf season). What a difference a few years makes. Even just last night I happened to catch a feature story about him on The National (Canada's national news broadcast). I'm one of those people who say "I listen to everything... oh yeah, except country music". Of course there are always exceptions to that and Corb Lund is one of them. His debut album Modern Pain was released on cassette in 1995 with only 1000 copies in circulation. It was re-released in 2003 with some bonus tracks including this live cover of Sixteen Tons. To me, the deep baritone of Tennessee Ernie Ford's version of Sixteen Tons will forever be associated to Grade 12 art class where this and Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue seemed to be in constant rotation (no complaints though, I love 'em both!).

Jamie T - When the Night Feels My Song [originally by Bedouin Soundclash]
English singer/songwriter Jamie T performed this cover of Bedouin Soundclash's biggest hit on Jo Whiley's Live Lounge show. This year, Bedouin Soundclash is nominated for Pop Album of the Year and Video of the Year. A couple years ago, When the Night Feels My Song was nominated for Single of the Year, eventually losing to Juno juggernaut Michael Bublé.

Pascale Picard - Wish You Were Here [originally by Pink Floyd]
Québécois artist Pascale Picard is in tough against Avril Lavigne, Celine Dion, Feist, and Juno juggernaut Michael Bublé for Artist of the Year. Not sure how Picard's only nomination ended up in this category. Artist of the Year with no other nominations? Her debut album came out last year and she's not even up for Best New Artist! Silly Junos. She contributed this cover and a great Shine On You Crazy Diamond to the compilation album Pink Floyd Redux, an underrated album that I've posted about a few times.

Michael Bublé - I'm Your Man [originally by Leonard Cohen]
From this year's nominee for Best Album, Call Me Irresistible, Juno juggernaut Michael Bublé swings Leonard Cohen's I'm Your Man. He's also up for Best Pop Album, Artist, Single, and the Doritos (ugh) Fan Choice Award. Call Me Irresistible has already won Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album at this year's Grammies down south. Bublé was nominated in that same category at last year's Grammies too for his Caught in the Act, eventually losing to Tony Bennett's Duets: An American Classic... featuring Juno juggernaut Michael Bublé.

Tune in tomorrow on Juno night for more Canadian covers!

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